Carl Icahn, who Thursday disclosed a new activist stake in Gannett Co., had planned to mount a campaign to separate the company’s print and broadcasting businesses before Gannett beat him to it.
Icahn Associates Corp. acquired about 6.6 percent of Gannett’s shares and options during the second quarter, with the belief that “value could be created by splitting the issuer into separate print and broadcast companies,” the fund said in a regulatory filing.
Gannett announced on Aug. 5 that it planned that very separation before Icahn had any contact with the company. He still plans to seek talks with Gannett’s management.
Icahn Associates now “intend to have discussions with representatives of the issuer’s management and board of directors relating to the planned separation, corporate governance, capitalization and capital allocation,” according to Thursday’s filing.
Gannett, the owner of USA Today, will split into two publicly traded companies, one focused on broadcasting and digital businesses while publishing is spun off in a tax-free distribution to shareholders. The company is joining a long line of media companies from Time Warner Inc. to News Corp. that have split publishing from broadcasting to better highlight the growth of the TV business.
Gannett stock has gained about 33 percent in the past year. The shares rose about 5 percent to $35.85 in late trading Thursday, after ending the regular session little changed.
Icahn, 78, who became an activist investor after gaining fame as a corporate raider in the 1980s, has recently taken large stakes at companies including Apple Inc., Family Dollar Stores Inc., Netflix Inc., EBay Inc. and Dell Inc., agitating management and directors for shareholder-friendly changes.
The New York-based investor is worth more than $23 billion, according to Bloomberg Billionaires, and primarily invests his own fortune, rather than relying on money from outsiders.
Fund managers disclose public holdings quarterly. Once activist investors such as Icahn buy more than 5 percent of a company’s stock they’re required to flag their intention to engage with corporate executives and directors by disclosing their holding in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.
Icahn also exited the fund’s stake in Forest Laboratories Inc. which was sold to Actavis Plc, and reduced its investment in Netflix Inc., a separate filing shows.
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